By Walt Hunter
EWING Twp., N.J., (CBS) — Attorney Tom Kline, who represents the family of 62-year-old Linda Cerritelli, killed in a massive gas explosion that injured 7 others and damaged or destroyed 55 homes, is speaking out for the first time, telling CBS 3 his investigation found that as gas leaked from a damaged main for nearly an hour, neither contractors’ employees, nor utility workers dialed “911”.
“Common sense tells us there was an obligation to call immediately for police, fire and rescue,” Kline told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter.
“That wasn’t done here.”
Kline’s findings that no one called “911” until the explosion were confirmed by Ewing Township Mayor Bert Steinmann in an interview with CBS 3 reporter Cleve Bryan on March 19th.
“Knowing what we know now after listening to the tapes and having all the information,” the Mayor told Bryan, “no, there was never a 911 call made before the explosion.”
If emergency crews had been called, Kline says, they would have rushed to the scene, possibly ordering an immediate evacuation that could have saved a life and injuries.
“None of that could have occurred,” Kline explained, “without dialing the simple digits on the phone-911.”
Responding to a CBS 3 inquiry, a PSE&G spokesperson emailed: “PSE&G crews received the report at 11:48 a.m. and arrived on scene at 12:02 p.m.
It’s not part of our normal procedure for our crews at the scene to call 911. Our policy is consistent with the law. N.J. statute dictates that when a gas line is struck, the excavator first calls 911 and then calls the facility owner-in this case PSE&G”.
A later statement added, “This is a tragedy from which we all will learn many lessons. We don’t want to get ahead of the investigation.”
As of now, there are no official findings yet released from at least two investigations, one by OSHA and one by the Board of Public Utilities, which are both still underway.